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click to enlarge Once Again  -  -  - Sony  -  - Sounds like: Watered-down '70s soul -  - Short take: Legend doesn't live up to his name -  - R&B singer John Legend arrived on the urban scene a few - years ago with a classic sound that seemingly turned the - clock back to a time that pre-dated hip-hop's influence - on the genre. Now Legend returns with his latest effort, - Once Again. It's a fitting title, considering the - majority of the new album stylistically dates back to not - only his first album but also, again, the Sly and the - Family Stone-era of influence. Legend's propensity to - rely on emulating his idols grows tiresome, as does his - often middle-of-the-road approach ("Each Day Gets - Better"). Fans may point to a subtle hip-hop sound, - which is evident; however, Once Again is one - time too many for Legend.  John Benson
  • Once Again

    Sony

    Sounds like: Watered-down '70s soul

    Short take: Legend doesn't live up to his name

    R&B singer John Legend arrived on the urban scene a few years ago with a classic sound that seemingly turned the clock back to a time that pre-dated hip-hop's influence on the genre. Now Legend returns with his latest effort, Once Again. It's a fitting title, considering the majority of the new album stylistically dates back to not only his first album but also, again, the Sly and the Family Stone-era of influence. Legend's propensity to rely on emulating his idols grows tiresome, as does his often middle-of-the-road approach ("Each Day Gets Better"). Fans may point to a subtle hip-hop sound, which is evident; however, Once Again is one time too many for Legend. John Benson

click to enlarge Bad Astronaut  - Twelve Small Steps, One Giant - Disappointment  -  -  - Fat Wreck Chords  -  - Sounds like: A lo-fi, arty Lagwagon -  - Short take: They're trying, dang it -  - You can take the boy out of the pop-punk, but it's hard - to take the pop-punk out of the boy. Headed by Joey - Cape, frontman for Lagwagon and part of the punk cover - band Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Bad Astronaut - labels itself an "indie-rock side project." All this means is - that the band turns the volume and tempo down on - about a third of the tracks. In some cases, it succeeds: - "One Giant Disappointment" is really rather mournful and - beautifully rendered. The pop-punk sound is still there, - but it's toned down. Since this is the band's last album - (drummer Derrick Plourde killed himself in 2005), enjoy - Bad Astronaut while you can.  Kara Luger
  • Bad Astronaut

    Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment

    Fat Wreck Chords

    Sounds like: A lo-fi, arty Lagwagon

    Short take: They're trying, dang it

    You can take the boy out of the pop-punk, but it's hard to take the pop-punk out of the boy. Headed by Joey Cape, frontman for Lagwagon and part of the punk cover band Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Bad Astronaut labels itself an "indie-rock side project." All this means is that the band turns the volume and tempo down on about a third of the tracks. In some cases, it succeeds: "One Giant Disappointment" is really rather mournful and beautifully rendered. The pop-punk sound is still there, but it's toned down. Since this is the band's last album (drummer Derrick Plourde killed himself in 2005), enjoy Bad Astronaut while you can. Kara Luger

click to enlarge Bonobo  - Days to Come  -  -  - Ninjatune  -  - Sounds like: Early Shadow minus the - pretension -  - Short take: Spoonful-of-sugar soundtrack - capsules -  - Bonobo's consistently banging drum-driven - instrumentals are at turns spooky, pensive and just - downright smooth. On his fourth effort, Days to - Come, he's up to his old and best tricks, cooking up - perfect back- or foreground music for whatever - occasion. A deft beatsmith, he constructs free-moving - miniature soundtracks that are jazzy, if not jazz. He only - falters when he attempts novelty: He takes the road - paved by Alias and Tarsier on a handful of tracks, - teaming up with guest singer Bajka, who doles out self- - help hooey over what were otherwise perfectly fine - beats. Mostly, though, Bonobo's worked himself into a - wonderful rut, generating endlessly playable - instrumental hip-hop.  Matt - Martin
  • Bonobo

    Days to Come

    Ninjatune

    Sounds like: Early Shadow minus the pretension

    Short take: Spoonful-of-sugar soundtrack capsules

    Bonobo's consistently banging drum-driven instrumentals are at turns spooky, pensive and just downright smooth. On his fourth effort, Days to Come, he's up to his old and best tricks, cooking up perfect back- or foreground music for whatever occasion. A deft beatsmith, he constructs free-moving miniature soundtracks that are jazzy, if not jazz. He only falters when he attempts novelty: He takes the road paved by Alias and Tarsier on a handful of tracks, teaming up with guest singer Bajka, who doles out self- help hooey over what were otherwise perfectly fine beats. Mostly, though, Bonobo's worked himself into a wonderful rut, generating endlessly playable instrumental hip-hop. Matt Martin

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